One day when turning back the pages in the annals of Tasmanian netball, the name Claire Dennis will be central to the state’s groundbreaking premiership story.
Dennis – officially at least – was the assistant coach of the Tasmanian Magpies. But that told only half the narrative.
The 33-year-old all but coached the Tasmanians in Hobart as head coach Kate Upton ran the Collingwood training partners through their paces in Melbourne.
It was a unique feature of the partnership 700kms apart between an island state and a famous sporting brand.
But the enormity of her role came to bare when Netball Tasmania chief executive Aaron Pidgeon mentioned in a pre-Christmas chat to Dennis that she was the only Tasmanian ever to coach the state to a national title.
“That’s phenomenal and it’s something that I never ever thought would happen,” Dennis said.
“But that was a big thing – do I go back around again or do I just close the book because that’s something incredible to finish on a high.
“But I love the challenge of developing girls – and Kate and I built a culture that wasn’t around winning, but about enjoying netball and with that comes success.”
That will be tested this year.
Upton has since been promoted as assistant to coach Rob Wright at the Magpies Super Netball side.
Dennis is set to join forces from this weekend during a Melbourne training camp with ANZ championship premiership star Elissa Kent.
The pair have only crossed paths years ago on the court.
The Tasmanian Magpies are delighted to announce the appointment of former ANZ Championship Premiership player @ElissaMacleod as Head Coach for the 2019 @Deakin Australian Netball League Season 👏— Magpies Netball (@magpies_netball) November 5, 2018
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“So again it will be a great learning experience to see whether we can create that bond together and have a united approach across the two states,” Dennis said.
“Working between the two states presents challenges, obviously, but with challenges come opportunities.”
Entering the ANL season as the defending champions, the Magpies will have a target on their backs.
But Dennis does not envisage things will be different as the side looks to reinvigorate their title chances.
The Tasmanians won the ANL grand final in a thrilling 54-53 win over Canberra.
“It does only for the rest of the competition,” she said.
“I think we will be the ones they want to chase, but each year presents different team lists across the board. It would be advantageous to expect the same result.”
Dennis attributed much of her success to grounding at Cavaliers when she moved up to Launceston for work.
She just as quickly moved into coaching after a knee injury curtailed the inaugural Tassie Spirit captain’s career.
“Working with the likes of Dannie Carstens, as a great friend of mine and we played all our state netball together, we had a similar outlook on life and coaching,” she said.
“So the way that club is run from a management perspective really helped my coaching career and gave me direction and stability.”